Five on Friday

1. Deadlines approacheth. I’m working on a difficult revision of a picture book with civil rights information. Questions such as how to be developmentally appropriate, not be preachy, and show not tell are swirling around my computer today. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been writing for children these always seem to be the crucial questions.  Also working on my picture book presentation for the VCFA July residency.

2. My second triathlon is on Sunday morning. The experience of the first has taken away some of my pre-race jitters so I’m mostly excited. I’ve decided that triathlons are sort of like child birth. You forget the pain after you enjoy the emotional high of the finish line.

3. Good news on the job front! I’ll be teaching an integrated 5/6th grade Language Arts and Social Studies class at The Friends School of Portland coming September. The four morning a week schedule should be perfect for completing my VCFA critical thesis. (You can remind me I said this when I’m pulling out my hair in November.) LL Bean has also hired me to a retail sales job at their camping department. Stop by if you’re in Maine this summer and I’ll show you some tents!

4. My son was part of a Civil War reenactment this week. I have to say, it was a little uncomfortable watching our children in this romanticized version of war especially when we are in a war right now. We need to ask our children to contemplate the effectiveness and cost of battle to reach political ends. By teaching war do we beget more war or preclude it? What is worth fighting for?

5. Again, with the Civil War… I always felt that my understanding of this atrocious loss of life was always distilled to the lowest common denominator. "The good north was fighting to free the slaves from the bad south." As I’ve gotten older and done some study of my own, I find that the facts are much more nuanced than that. Why do we persist in teaching this distilled version?

PS: if you see me on facebook this weekend, tell me to get back to work.

Busy Writer/Mom/Triathlete Links on Life

Oh goodness. It has been over a month, a month? since I’ve posted and I’m so sorry. That means I’ve done NO book review Wednesdays for a month. Ack. (And I thought those would keep me blogging.) March has been a month of deadlines and to excuse my absence I quickly fill you in on some of the deadlines that I’ve been meeting and working towards. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ve probably see a lot of this already so my apologies.

March 1: Final illustrations for the book Fufu and Fresh Strawberries You can see some of those illustrations here.
Forum assignment for my Picture Book Certification Semester at Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA)

March 15: Final egg paintings for the Great Goose Egg Auction. You can see the eggs here.

March 17: My 2nd packet was due for VCFA

March 22: Forum assignment for my Picture Book Certification Semester at VCFA

March 23: I did my first multisport event. An indoor triathlon at the Naval Air Station Brunswick. The event was a 1000 meter row on an ergometer, a 5 mile bike on a stationary lifefitness cycle, and a 1.5 mile treadmill run. You can see pictures of me and Mike (the gentleman paired with me)  in the event and read more about it in the captions here. I used this indoor triathlon to train for an event that I am doing in May, The Tri for the Casco Bay Y. If you’d like to donate a small bit to the scholarship funds and to my team the MIghty Mamas, please take a look at our fund raising page where you can donate online. I’ll be swimming and cycling and my friend Rachel will tag off to do the 5K run.

This past week I’ve been revising and polishing the first 10 pages of my novel, working on the synopsis and query letter for the deadlines associated with the New England SCBWI spring conference critiques and quick queries. While the Friday and Saturday registration is full, there are still spots for Sunday so check it out.

I also just got back from the post office, where I was sending a picture book to for the April 1st scholarship deadline at VCFA and a trip to the library where I was stocking up with a new load of 25 picture books for VCFA Packet 3!

All of this with my husband out of state for the first three weeks of March and two kids who need me.

So you see, I’ve been an extremely busy Writer/Mom/Triathlete but we’ll see if April, with its extended sunshine hours, allows me to find more time to blog. Happy Passover to all who celebrate. Look for my Wednesday review of the book: The Matzoh That Papa Brought Home.

Shop Indie Bookstores

News from the outside

Dear Friends,
Originally I was going to lock this post and then decided that there are probably many others who are experiencing similar circumstances and could chime in.

I recently posted about a job for which I applied. I found out yesterday that I did not get the job. I had high hopes that this was the one. I’ve applied to many in the last six months. Six or seven, or is it more like eight or ten? Whatever the numbers, for each one there is the work of the application. For teaching jobs this is more extensive. Transcripts, fingerprints and certifications all need to be gathered. I have to impose upon friends to write or rewrite their references for me, yet again. I send it all in. I get my hopes up. I wait. I follow up. I don’t get the job.

I don’t feel this is at all a reflection of my competence. The employer often sites the large number of qualified and over-qualified applicants. The economy and the high unemployment rate is certainly a factor. Jobs in Maine are few and far between. Budgets are slashed. The employers applaud my intelligence, my creativity, my interesting experiences and then they say, "no." On the publishing front the message is often the same. Wow, the editors say. You are a wonderful writer. So professional. Your piece is great. I just signed a similar one. I’m sorry. No.

The question one might ask, I might ask, I DO ask, is how much "no" can a person take? The reality of our financial situation (two mortgages as our spec house is unrented and unsold) forces me to get up on that horse. Keep riding. Redesign that resume. Network more. Apply or submit again. Tenacity counts. I am tenacious.

I tell myself that a better opportunity will come along. That the universe knows what it is doing. That it wasn’t meant to be.

All this in the midst of a wonderful, magical MFA residency at VCFA in the snow covered mountains of Vermont.
What a joy kill.


A list

Sometimes there is the pressure to have something to say when one starts to write a blog entry. I always start thinking I’ve got nothing. Lists help, so here we go…
1. Kids went back to school today. I got almost all my sketches for Fufu printed out on good Arches paper. Two are already painted. Must keep on, keeping on.
2. Lucy puppy is growing fast. With the kids and hubby gone she was visibly confused and decided to sleep for most of the day. I took her out skiing, went for a walk, and practiced frisbee fetch. She gives it back to me if I keep a few bits of hot dog handy. I’m so happy that she is part of our family.

Is she beautiful or what?
3. My VCFA residency starts on Sunday! This is pack week. That means that this is also laundry week. And go to Target for last minute "I needs", I need twin size flannel sheets, a new set of long johns, an electric water kettle, and a back support chair insert if I can find one. After the New Year’s storm I’m expecting deep snow. I got these slope sliders as a gift to bring with me to the residency.

I’m also trying to catch up with my reading, both pre-lecture and pre-workshop readings. I should have done this during the last two weeks but used the reading time to treat myself to grown-up books The Help and Eat Cake.
4. Cross your fingers for me as I have a job interview on Wednesday as the Media Liaison of a private school. I think I’m a great match for the job, we’ll see how the meeting goes.
5. My kiddo got a Sansa mp3 player which I was assured would take files from itunes. (not purchased but the ones that were originally my cd’s) Turns out that all my music was imported in nonmp3 format so I have to convert them all. Ick. Now I know there is a box to check in preferences to fix this problem for future imports.

Five on Friday

1. I know it’s been a while since I just blogged for the pleasure of blogging. I miss it. I really do. Life has been quite hectic recently. I’m sure a few of you are going through the experience of having a spouse who works far away so that they can have a job. This is our situation. We have gotten use to the good-byes, the hello’s are getting a little easier too. Hubby has been a total trooper doing the "bag drag." He really has two jobs. One with a private defense contractor company and the other in the Navy Reserves. I was very proud to attend his Change of Command ceremony last weekend. It’s rare that we get to see our spouses in action (at work). It was lovely to see him in uniform, carrying himself with such grace and exuding leadership. His speeches were eloquent, funny, and well delivered. What a treat! Here we are with his Chief Petty Officer.

The week leading up to this was crazy. The brakes in the trucks failed while I was driving (we are all fine) and I had to do the mechanic thing. The next day, I locked my sweet puppy and my keys in the car. Huge thank you to the lady who used her AAA to save me and the Dad of I’s classmate who drove my son to basketball practice. The next day, to travel to the Change of Command, my Hubby rented us a car from Enterprise. I showed up at 12:10 not knowing that they closed at noon. Needless to say, there were tears. But all was well.

2. I’ve completed a full draft of my novel. I missed the JONOWRIMO check in, but happy to have reached this milestone. Of course, now I turn around and start to revise: put in, take out, look for emotional distance, inconsistencies, character arc, adult word choice. Someday. Someday.

3. I turn in Packet Five today. This is my last packet for the first semester of my Vermont College experience. It’s been– I don’t really know– arduous? time consuming? enlightening? I can certainly say that I am able to look at my work with a more critical eye than before this semester. I write and read all the time. I read more critically than I did before. My critical writing has improved markedly. In my creative work, there is no time for excuses. (Although here I am at 6:30 am blogging, without my last critical essay complete and the packet due today.) I’m really looking forward to being at the residency again. Seeing my cohort group and getting the workshop pages from others to critique. I’ll be doing the Picture Book certificate and I’m really looking forward to working with Sarah Ellis and Kathi Appelt. (Time to look for a back support cushion.)

4. My puppy is growing quickly and needs LOTS of love and attention. When Hubby came home Monday (after a week away), I grabbed my computer and books and said, "You are in charge here at home. I’m going to the library." Yesterday he asked me, did I notice that it’s really hard to get anything done with the puppy wanting to play all the time? Um….yes.

5. I’m afraid that I failed to post Book Review Wednesday this week. I’m sorry. It’s just been too crazy here. I have three authors out there waiting for their reviews and I promise I’ll do them over the next few weeks. The new year is coming quickly, if you have a 2010 release and would like to send me a review copy, leave a comment with your email (spell it out so the spambots don’t get you.)

Six On Saturday

1. We are hanging the Maine Illustrators’ Collective Classics Reimagined show on Monday, November 2nd. If you’d like to come and/or attend the opening, here is the information:

2. If you won’t be able to make it and would like to see my piece here it is:

From Aesop’s, The Fox and The Crow.

3. If you are wondering why I’m up early it’s because I have so much work to do on my VCFA packet. I always seem to get to this point. I read for too long then I’m crunched for writing time.  (I know, Mona. Six am isn’t early but I’ve been up and working since four.) I needed an extension last time and I’m set on not asking for another one. Feeling a little anxious.
4. I just bought a wide format Epson printer with the money I’m earning from my illustration work for hire. Very exciting but it is an investment.
5. Even though I just dealt with a disappointing rejection on the job scene, I’m applying for yet another one. I guess that is just how it goes, but I start to wonder– between writing rejections and job rejections, how much can I take before I want to curl up and hide from the world? Perhaps it is a little like child birth though. Nature allows us to forget the pain so that we will do it all again. At least at the end of child birth you have the beautiful child. I’m ready to see the fruits of my labor on the job market. And in the children’s book industry for that matter.
6. Lucy the yellow lab puppy is coming home to our house on November 15th. She’ll be 9 weeks old and is as cute as cute can be. I’ll post pics when I get some. I only have them on my phone and don’t have a plan that allows me email them to myself. (ACK!)

Packet number one deadline approacheth

Hello out there in LJ land. Just a quick posting (perhaps we will number it.)
1. I have one week left to complete two critical essays, 20-40 new pages of writing, a quickee autobiography and a sincere letter of progress to the awesome Sharron Darrow. Everything is started, nothing is finished. (I’m starting to grind my teeth at night again.)

2. My Maine homecoming has been absolutely awesome. I’ve managed to connect with so many people who are welcoming us home with open arms. I feel so thankful to be a part of this community (and I love being in MY house again.)

3. If you are close by, you are invited to our first once a month potluck. We all say we are too busy to make time for each other, but friendships are what life is all about. Email or comment if you need more info!

4. I’ve had the DVD "Penelope" on my counter for over a month from Netflix (even in Maryland) so I finally watched it tonight. LOVED IT. It has that weird super saturated art direction of Pushing Up Daisies.

5. So here’s the awful part. "Penelope" is rated PG, I thought my kids would love it. I’d never seen it before. So we’re watching and there is this one part. Takes about 3 seconds, when the smarmy rich guy (who saw Penelope once and got scared and thought she was a monster) re- imagines Penelope as a monster with fangs and scary eyes and a boarish face. He sees this monster in his imagination through a car window in the dark. OMG my boys (10 and 8) shriek and scream and start to sob like someone is coming after them with a chainsaw. They run to my chair and hug me and sob and shake (for what seems an eternity but was probably all of 10 minutes) and all I can do is apologize over and over and hold them and love them and validate their fear. Now they are in my bed and I’m stuck sleeping with kids who are each almost 5 feet tall.

Okay so that’s five on Wednesday. I’ll be back after my deadline is past.

No place like home

Perhaps you have been thinking that the Green mountains of Vermont had swallowed me up in their morning mist and starry nights. It is not so. When the VCFA residency ended I drove back to my parent’s home in south central Pennsylvania, packed my older son I. for his first sleep away camp experience and then drove him three and a half hours to northern Pennsylvania where the camp is located. On the way, largish-son, smallish-son and I met up with my hubby and camped. (For those of you who don’t know, Hubby is away with the Navy which is one reason I am at the parent’s place.It had been three weeks since we had seen one another.) Now smallish son and I are packing up as much of our belongings as will fit in the minivan, and I am snatching bits of time for reading and writing assignments. (Three books down and one critical essay started as well as some important character discovery work)

Come Thursday we will get back in the van and travel back to the sleep away camp, pick up largish-son and drive to Newport, RI where we will see hubby again. Twice in two weeks, not bad. When the renters move out of our Maine house and we can move back in… I will have a home. And my screen porch. And my kitchen.

Oh, how I miss my kitchen. This kitchen will be the site of many a potluck in my new and improved Maine life. You see it took leaving to realize how much I missed my Maine friends.

Just click your heels together and say, "There’s no place like home…"

I wish it was that easy. Instead, moving (on our own, piece by piece, storing stuff in my parent’s barn and basement that we will have to come pick up later in the fall) has been a big pain in the tuchas! Anyway,  I’ve resolved to have monthly potluck dinners and whoever can come is welcomed! Bring a dish to pass and if you want, bring a board game that your chidren like to play or we can herd them outside to play in the driveway. Save the date– Saturday, August 22nd. (I assume I’ll be home by then, you might have to unpack a box if you come though.) You are welcome to arrive anytime past 2 but dinner won’t start till between 4 and 6 when others arrive. If you think you can come and you’d like details, send me message through Live Journal or Facebook. Hope to see you then.

Good-bye grads

Big party night here in Montpelier, Vermont. The fourth semester students throw a themed party for the graduating students. The theme– Hawaii. I can’t imagine the end of the tunnel, as I have just started to travel this road but the community here is such that I am extremely happy for my new friends who are moving on in their journey. The alumni who visited this weekend have also been kind. I know quite a few people  from SCBWI-NE so it is nice connect without having to wait from next spring’s conference. Jennifer Richard Jacobson, Sally Reilly, Julie Berry, Martha Caldero, Sarah Aronson,   and Anindita  were here too. Anindita is busy already on plans for next year. (By the way the CFP is up on the website if you are interested in presenting in 2010, due date September 15)

My biggest epiphany this week is that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I came to the program thinking that I knew how to write and read and this week has shown me how much I have to learn. The lectures were certainly helpful for me and I took something from each. The workshops, though, were crucial and most educational. Certainly it is important when someone gives me feedback but it was listening to co-workshopers critique another person’s work that was most helpful and accessible. They unveiled the psychic distance, POV issues, flat characterization, etc. in the writing we analyzed. I have a lot to work on this semester, that’s for sure.